Annual Report: Ukraine 2013

May 29, 2013

Annual Report: Ukraine 2013

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  • In January, 81 people detained in two migrant accommodation centres, the majority of whom were Somali nationals, declared a hunger strike to protest against their detention. They had been detained and sentenced to up to 12 months “for the purposes of deportation”, following a police action to control “illegal immigration” at the end of December 2011. No Somali nationals had ever been returned from Ukraine, and forcible returns to Somalia would have been unlawful in all but exceptional circumstances. At least one detainee was registered with the UNHCR as an asylum-seeker, but many more had been unable to apply for asylum as the Regional Migration Services offices in many parts of Ukraine had not functioned for most of 2011. The detainees ended the hunger strike on 17 February, after the State Migration Service assured them that it would re-open its regional offices in Volyn district, in western Ukraine, and start accepting applications for refugee status and related protection. By November 2012, 53 of the detainees had been released.

Justice system

A new Criminal Procedural Code, with significant improvements on the previous one, was given Presidential assent on 14 May. It clarified that detention starts from the moment of apprehension by the police; that detainees have the right to a lawyer and to an independent medical expert from that moment; and clearly stated that pre-trial detention should only be applied in exceptional circumstances, in line with Council of Europe recommendations. It also provided for automatic review of the continuing justification for pre-trial detention at two-monthly intervals. Concerns remained that a lawyer was only mandatory in cases of especially grave crimes that entail a penalty of more than 10 years in prison, and that free legal aid was also only available in cases where a lawyer was mandatory.

  • On 27 February, Yuriy Lutsenko, former Minister of Internal Affairs and leader of the People's Self Defence opposition political party, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment and a fine of 643,982 hryvna (€61,621) for misappropriation of state property and abuse of office. Yuriy Lutsenko had been held in pre-trial detention since 26 December 2010. On 3 July the European Court of Human Rights found that Yuriy Lutsenko's pre-trial detention had violated his right to liberty, as well as having been ordered for political reasons in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. On 17 August, he was found guilty additionally for professional negligence for ordering illegal surveillance of a driver while investigating the poisoning of former President Yushchenko. His sentence remained unchanged.
  • A new trial against former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko for tax evasion was due to start in April, but was postponed for health reasons. The new charges, which were made in October 2011, related to her activities as president of the energy trading company United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) from 1995 to 1997. She continued to serve a seven-year sentence under politically motivated charges of abuse of office for signing a multi-million dollar energy contract with Russia in January 2009, while she was Prime Minister.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In October, Parliament passed the second reading of a draft law “On amendments to some legislative acts (to protect the right of children to a safe information environment)”. The Law proposed to ban the production, importation or distribution of publications, film or video materials promoting homosexuality. If enacted, the law would severely restrict the right to freedom of expression of LGBTI individuals.